With Season 2 only a week away, I decided to do some basic theory crafting to examine which classes will have the greatest potential for greater rifts. Since the new season will not present the set pieces introduced at Blizzcon, I will not address those. Instead, I will look at just the season specific gear that will be added to the pot and see how that should impact the seasons.
I feel that the three classes that will see the most impact by far are the Crusader, Monk and Witch Doctor as a result of their new class specific items. Crusaders will receive a new Belt of the Trove which will cast Bombardment at enemies every 6-8 seconds. If you combine that belt with The Mortal Drama, you will see a definite increase in damage. I did manage to give this build a try while at Blizzcon. The way they set it up was taking a Phalanx Stampede base build and adding Bombardment. In some ways, this build feels similar to a Tal Rasha 4 set bonus build where you automatically have Meteors triggered. Unlike the Tal Rasha set though, you do not require a specific trigger to cause Bombardments to fall. They did provide Bombardment as part of your action bar along with the Akkhan set. So overall, it looks to be a very AoE heavy and possibly some single target build that has the defensive benefits of Akarat’s Prophet. You will lose some cooldown in removing the Vigilante Belt in place but also you will not have to deal with as much of the awkward positioning of Stampede.
Monks will receive Gungdo Gear bracers that applies Exploding Palm upon others dying from Exploding Palm. So in short, it’s going to be a massive chain effect that ought to boost the monk’s AoE damage pretty significantly. More than likely, monks’ Sunwuko set still will be the armor of choice since the Raiment of a Thousand Storms has not been finalized in terms of the new set bonuses. Nonetheless, Monks with their revised Sunwuko set bonuses already are seeing fairly significant survivability increase and build diversity from the way their clones are triggered and the buff added from the 4 set bonus. Adding Exploding Palm ought to provide yet even more burst damage, which may overall make monks the top class at the end of the day.
Lastly, Witch Doctors will receive a very nice Staff called the Wormwood staff. Wormwood will automatically cast Locust Swarm on foes and automatically roll with poison damage as an affix. The primary benefit of this staff will be effectively freeing up an action bar slot for the Witch Doctor as well as allowing them to reduce their overall mana depletion and focus more on CC’ing enemies to hit their Soul Harvest on in conjunction with their Jade Harvest sets. From what I can tell, a fair number of Witch Doctors look to be going towards another CC ability like Horrorify. Unfortunately, I do not know if this will help address some of the current issues with Jade Harvester survivability issues. If anything though, we should see them rank slightly higher since their rotation should simplify quite a bit.
For the remaining seasonal class specific items, I do not think at this moment they are clear game changers. The new Demon Hunter Oddysey’s End merely increases damage from Entangling Shot by 20-25% from all sources. While fresh 70s might find the bow to be useful on working with Cull of the Weak, without the new set this bow simply will not synergize well with the current M6 builds. I still feel Kridershot will be the most sought after Ancient then perhaps Calamity in conjunction with Bombadier’s Rucksack and the popular Evasive Fire/Multishot builds. That said, if Blizzard manages to introduce patch 2.2 during the season with the set items, this bow might be fairly sought after. It was demonstrated at Blizzcon and seemed to work nicely with the set with the whole generators receiving a boost in damage. But until that set is put into the wild and tested in a very high greater rift setting, M6 still will end up dominating the next season.
For Barbarians, they will see an updated belt in The Undisputed Champion, which will give the barbarian all the Frenzy runes. While the belt may open up early opportunities for Barbarians, I foresee that compared to the clearing speed of Raekor’s set, this item alone won’t be a game changer. And with Raekor’s set, I doubt most Barbarians would use this item, instead choosing the Pride of Cassius for the Ignore Pain duration increase. This might be an interesting low level item but definitely not a deal breaker for high level greater rifts.
Finally, with Wizards we’ll see the Halo of Arlyse in which, “Your Ice Armor now provides 50-60% Melee Damage Reduction and automatically casts Frost Nova whenever you take 10% of your Life in damage.” While it is true that Wizards currently suffer from lack of general CC abilities to compliment the high end Firebird Finery build style, this ring sacrifices too much damage to be of practical use for Firebird style wizards. Most Wizards end up kiting so enemies that do manage to inflict damage at a certain range probably will be actively avoided. Wizard’s real problem outside of some defensive issues is the lack of single target damage. Black Hole is too cooldown and reaction dependent as well as being the main spell to take down rift guardians. If the ring had modified Black Hole to have reduced cooldown, then it could be considered useful. Perhaps, it might even be useful for the newer wizard set coming out. Nonetheless, Firebird wizards still will probably stick with Unity, Stone of Jordon and/or Ring of Royal Grandeur.
Of course, the other massive change that will impact season 2 are the changes to the three gear sets, particularly the Marauder’s set, Raekor’s set and Sunwuko sets. In my own experience thus far, Marauders actually does quite well early on in terms of having a massive damage boost. But the chief weakness in the Marauder’s set is the lack of defensive stats compared to the previous version. It might be the case where the new legendary gems may help the defensive side. However, I feel that won’t be the case for most Demon Hunters and that damage gems still will be BiS.
Raekor’s change is pretty significant too and addresses a few problems like adding armor and giving another charge. I still think the set remains tough without the high CDR either from gear or a high level Gogok. When everything gets reset, it might be that Barbarians still will be at the bottom even with their set bonuses in place.
To me the real winner in this upcoming season seems to point towards the monk. I think the combined defensive and offensive changes for the monk, they will end up becoming one of the best all around classes that will skyrocket them up the charts. However, depending on how long the season will go, they might end up peaking early and dropping due to the insane clear speeds of a savvy barbarian. The real problem in Greater Rifts is that even with all the changes, the bottom line is that ones success completely depends upon the RNG of the rift rather than a player’s raw skill and even gear to a degree.